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10/22/2001

Manners Matter During Job Interview

Kate Traynor

The national pharmacist shortage should not be used as a reason for job seekers to show poor etiquette during interviews.

Darlene M. Mednick, M.B.A., vice president of pharmacy relations for Merck-Medco Managed Care LLC, said manners definitely make an impression on her. Mednick, who hired over 700 pharmacists in 2000, has found that students vary greatly in the degree of professionalism they present at job interviews.

During one pharmacy school's career fair, Mednick said, "I had at least three students walk up to me, ... and instead of sticking out their hand to me, shaking their hand, introducing themselves, ... they said in one way, shape, or form: So, whattaya got?"

"The next day," Mednick recalled, "three of the interviews that were signed up, scheduled, never showed and never even sent word."

Mednick compared this scene with a career fair held by another school in the same state.

"It was the greatest experience. The students had their resumes, they were professionally dressed. They were very, very professional, very polite, very prepared."

Not surprisingly, Mednick said the students at this latter school had a much better chance of landing a job or internship at Merck-Medco than did their less-polite counterparts at the first school.

What etiquette do employers like Mednick expect to see during a job interview? Here are some of the basics:

Be on time. Showing up late for an interview does not make a positive impression on an employer, who might assume that you will also fail to report on time for work.

Dress professionally. The workplace's dress code might allow for casual attire, but that code does not extend to the interview. By wearing a clean, well-pressed suit, you help show that you take the job seriously.

Be prepared. Bring extra copies of your resumes and reference lists. And learn as much as you can about the potential employer—this will help you to better understand the job and ask intelligent questions about the job and the workplace.

Body language counts. A pleasant smile, firm handshake, and good posture can help you project an air of confidence, even if you really are nervous.

Be friendly, but not too friendly. The person who interviews you must figure out whether your personality fits the organization’s culture. But the interviewer does not need to hear your life story to get a feel for your personality. For the most part, try to keep the conversation at a professional level.

Thank the interviewer. A written or e-mailed note thanking the interviewer is not only polite, it also keeps your name on the person’s mind. If there is competition for the position, the effort you take to thank an employer for interviewing you could help tip the job scale in your favor.